During the last three years, a group of Portuguese scientists put up a project to communicate science through stand-up comedy. Originally planned to integrate the events of the Portuguese European Researchers Night in 2009, it evolved to a 2nd and 3rd edition, with the more recent focusing on environment (with funds from an environmental national prize).
 
In this paper, we describe the project and the process of conceptualizing and building up a stand-up comedy show on science. More specifically we focus on the selection of scientists, the choice of themes, the process of producing the texts, specific acting lessons and preparation to perform for different types of audiences, and other aspects related to this project. This is based on the personal experience of the authors (one coordinator and two participants), but also through interviews to all the scientists that participated in this process.
 
Each performance was planned to have the duration of approximately one hour with pieces of six/seven scientists. Its main purpose is to entertain and make people smile, laugh or feel-well, whilst trying to fulfill other objectives of science communication, namely to increase awareness about the issues involved, to provide information about those issues, to promote learning or curiosity but above all to transmit the idea of science and of scientists as something one can laugh at. The overall objective was that audiences became more receptive to science in general while learning and laughing at the same time.
 
In general, the participant scientists chose themes related to their areas of expertise and/or in which they had a specific interest, which gave them the advantage of greater initial knowledge or interest to increase it. For the research in each theme, participants used books about science, scientific articles, technical and non-technical reports, newspaper articles, but also their personal experience as scientists. To improve the quality of the humor of the initial texts, there was a substantial input of the coordinator, but also a significant interaction and improvement through brainstorming and trial and error which involved coordinators and participants.
 
After three years of experience, with 20 performances and a total audience of over2500 people in different settings – theaters, universities, research centers, shopping malls – and endless laughter this science communication project may be considered as an example worth sharing and discussing.
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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Communicating science through laughter
A project on stand-up comedy on science

Sofia Guedes Vaz   CENSE/FCT/UNL (New University of Lisbon)

Bruno Pinto   Museu Nacional de História Natural, Lisbon, Portugal

David Marçal   Associação Viver a Ciéncia, Lisbon, Portugal

During the last three years, a group of Portuguese scientists put up a project to communicate science through stand-up comedy. Originally planned to integrate the events of the Portuguese European Researchers Night in 2009, it evolved to a 2nd and 3rd edition, with the more recent focusing on environment (with funds from an environmental national prize).
 
In this paper, we describe the project and the process of conceptualizing and building up a stand-up comedy show on science. More specifically we focus on the selection of scientists, the choice of themes, the process of producing the texts, specific acting lessons and preparation to perform for different types of audiences, and other aspects related to this project. This is based on the personal experience of the authors (one coordinator and two participants), but also through interviews to all the scientists that participated in this process.
 
Each performance was planned to have the duration of approximately one hour with pieces of six/seven scientists. Its main purpose is to entertain and make people smile, laugh or feel-well, whilst trying to fulfill other objectives of science communication, namely to increase awareness about the issues involved, to provide information about those issues, to promote learning or curiosity but above all to transmit the idea of science and of scientists as something one can laugh at. The overall objective was that audiences became more receptive to science in general while learning and laughing at the same time.
 
In general, the participant scientists chose themes related to their areas of expertise and/or in which they had a specific interest, which gave them the advantage of greater initial knowledge or interest to increase it. For the research in each theme, participants used books about science, scientific articles, technical and non-technical reports, newspaper articles, but also their personal experience as scientists. To improve the quality of the humor of the initial texts, there was a substantial input of the coordinator, but also a significant interaction and improvement through brainstorming and trial and error which involved coordinators and participants.
 
After three years of experience, with 20 performances and a total audience of over2500 people in different settings – theaters, universities, research centers, shopping malls – and endless laughter this science communication project may be considered as an example worth sharing and discussing.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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